Tag Archives: behavior

Mikkel and Indiana Bones playing tug

Video: The truth about playing tug with your dog

Dogs love to play tug, but people are always saying it’s not a good idea to indulge them in that love. The truth is, if you keep a few simple tips in mind, it’s safe to play tug with most dogs.

My daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, has the explanation in the latest video in her ongoing myth-buster series with our friends at Bissell. She’s assisted by my Granddog, Indiana Bones.

Check it out below:

(This post is not sponsored by Bissell, but they are a valued sponsor of Fear Free.)

Poodle barking

What to do when a neighbor dog’s barking is driving you insane

I live out in the middle of nowhere on Almost Heaven Ranch, and one of the things I most cherish is the peace and quiet. But people who live in townhouses, apartment buildings, and neighborhoods value peace and quiet, too. Which is what makes a constantly barking dog next door so infuriating. What can you do? That’s what a reader asked, and as with all things behavior and training related, I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to weigh in.

Q: I live in a townhouse, and my neighbor’s poodle is a barking machine. Can a dog be trained not to bark?

A: Barking is a natural dog behavior. Dogs bark to communicate — “Hey, someone’s walking up to the door” — out of frustration or excitement, or out of boredom. The good news is that dogs can learn when it’s appropriate to bark and when to put a lid on it. More difficult, sometimes, is educating owners about how to deal with their dogs’ unwanted behaviors.

The first thing to do is document the frequency of the dog’s barking. Note the days and times the dog barks and the length of time the barking continues. Record the barking so your neighbor can have an idea of how much noise is coming into your unit.

Then knock on her door and politely ask if you can have a chat about the dog’s barking. Explain the specific problem, whether it’s being unable to sleep, unable to hear your television or unable to concentrate on work.

If your neighbor is not home during the day, she may not realize what a nuisance it is. She may be able to set up a “dog cam” to determine what’s setting the dog off. It might be people, other dogs, squirrels or birds that he sees through the window. If that’s the case, she may be able to put a stop to the barking by closing the blinds or restricting the dog’s access to rooms with windows. To offset boredom, the dog may need a midday walk with a pet sitter or some interactive toys to occupy his brain.

If she’s unable or unwilling to deal with the dog’s barking, it may be necessary to approach the homeowners association or animal control.

Read more, including a report from the world’s largest veterinary conference, in this week’s Pet Connection!


What to do when your pet’s a handful… and you’re heading out of town

A reader asked what to do with her rambunctious — okay, she used the words “Tasmanian devil” — Pug while she was out of town. I turned to my friend and colleague, board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lisa Radosta, for help.

Q: I’m hoping to take a three-week trip to Europe next year, but I don’t like leaving my pug in a dog hotel that long, and she’s such a handful — think Tasmanian devil in pug form — that she’s not a great candidate for leaving with friends or family. My sister has my pug’s brother, and I feel bad leaving Lulu with her because together the two pugs are more than most people can handle. We are about to do another round of obedience training, but do you have any other suggestions?

A: For your question, we went to veterinary behavior expert Lisa Radosta, DVM. Her first piece of advice is to buy your sister an amazing present — maybe a fabulous pair of shoes she’s been coveting — drop shoes and Lulu off at her house, and go on your trip. While that might be the simplest and fastest solution, Dr. Radosta offered some other ideas to consider that might be more beneficial long-term.

First, she says, a three-week stay at a great pet hotel is not the worst thing in the world if it’s a place Lulu enjoys. You might consider taking Lulu to day care or for a weekend at a specific place on a regular basis. If you can see she enjoys it and is well cared for, you might feel better about leaving her there for a longer stay. Try to find one with a pet cam so you can check in on her any time of day or night.

A live-in pet sitter is another option. You can find one who will stay in your home 24/7.

Finally, a refresher training class is a good idea. Look for a positive-reinforcement trainer. You might want to try a couple of private classes as well. Good luck.

Read more, including how to honor our canine veterans, in this week’s Pet Connection!

Live Q&A: How to set your dog up for success and safety when playing with other dogs

Do you have questions about how to set your dog up for success when playing with other dogs, dog park safety, and general dog safety, etiquette, and behavior?

Please join my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, and Beneful Dream Dog Park Project and pet safety expert Arden Moore for a live Q&A on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 PM Pacific Time/10 PM Eastern!

Just click over to www.facebook.com/DrMartyBecker a few minutes before the Q&A is set to begin, and Mikkel and Arden will be taking your questions right in the comments!

Can’t make it but still have questions? Post them right here, or email me, and I’ll make sure Mikkel and Arden see them!

About the Presenters

Arden Moore is the dog park safety and behavior expert for the Beneful Dream Dog Parks Project, as well as a radio show host, author, professional speaker, editor, media consultant, dog/cat behavior consultant and master pet first aid instructor.

Mikkel Becker is a certified trainer specializing in dogs and cats, the resident trainer for Vetstreet.com, an honors graduate of the Academy for Dog Trainers at the San Francisco SPCA, a graduate of the Purdue University Dogs and Cats course, and a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy.

Note: I am currently working with Purina on a number of commercial projects, for which I am receiving compensation.

A veterinarian’s guide to greeting dogs in public

I was with friends in my hometown of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and we were standing on the porte-cochere of a local hotel’s restaurant. Coming directly at us on a retractable leash was a cute, energetic canine with curly black hair, weighing about 12 pounds. What stood out to me was not his physical appearance, but his emotions: He was clearly anxious and fearful.

He ran around on the end of the retractable leash, zigging and zagging like a marlin hooked off the Baja Peninsula. Like a blinking neon sign, he alternated between relaxing and returning to his anxious, fearful behavior. His owner was oblivious to his fear, anxiety and stress. All he needed was the comfort of a couple of pet lovers, right?


Both of my female friends moved straight for the pooch, leaned over him, stretched out their hands toward his head and with direct eye contact said, “Aren’t you a cute little doggy!”

The dog was in full-blown panic.

For decades, millions of pet lovers have done exactly the same. Taught by parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors and other animal lovers, they learned to show affection for a dog by leaning in, extending a friendly hand and locking eyes in loving contact. But in working with dozens of boarded animal behaviorists, behavior technicians and trainers, I’ve learned that all of that is wrong. All of it!

Here’s how you should greet a dog.

1. Ask. Before you do anything, get the owner’s permission to pet the dog. Not all dogs like meeting strangers.

2. Play hard to get. Don’t rush toward the dog. Move slowly, talk slowly, extend your closed fist slowly. Let the dog choose if he or she wants to interact with you. Debbie Martin, a veterinary technician specialist in behavior and co-author of the “Puppy Start Right” book and preschool curriculum, says: “Let the dog make the first move. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and they can smell us from across the street. We do not need to reach our hands into their personal space so they can smell us.”

3. Get small. Looming over a dog can make him feel threatened or fearful. Rather than greeting a dog full-on, as if you’re a store greeter ready to shake hands, turn your body sideways to reduce your profile, thus presenting a smaller perceived threat to the dog.

4. Extend a friendly fist. Once the dog has made the first move and is signaling interest in interacting with you, put out a closed fist down low, and let him make the approach. This is less threatening (and less annoying to the dog) than reaching out with the open palm of your hand and petting him on top of the head.

5. Eyes right. Your mom was right when she told you it was rude to stare. Dogs think it’s rude, too. Don’t make eye contact with a dog. That’s considered a threat in his world. You can glance at him, but let your peripheral vision guide you.

6. Don’t touch the head. Dogs have special places they like to be petted, but the head isn’t one of them. The top of the head is taboo. Along the top of the back isn’t so good, either. The best way to pet a dog is to lightly scratch along the side of the neck, side of the chest, or at the base of the tail.

7. What if a dog doesn’t want to approach you? That’s his business. Be content to admire him from a distance. He’ll appreciate it more than you can imagine.

Read this and more, including how to pick the right litter box for your cat and treating tear stains on white fur, in this week’s Pet Connection!